BY PALOMA LACY
Combining top notch food and a family atmosphere is not easy, but Bistro Union in Clapham manages to do so in an effortless fashion. High-end cooking is normally associated with a more formal, or dare I say stuffy, atmosphere, but this is most definitely not the case here.
Children are most welcome, and even though my baby hurled her toy giraffe to the floor five times within the first 10 minutes of our visit, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, it was met with a smile.
This left me and my husband feeling comfortable and happy to make better acquaintance with the menu.
An excellent start is always bread, so good that you care little about what’s coming next.
The waiting staff were honest enough to explain that Coombeshead sourdough dough is sent frozen from Cornwall and then baked on site.
So far, so excellent, and our lunchtime experience just got better and better. Cauliflower cheese croquettes (£5), as a description, didn’t do this pre-starter nibble justice. Cauliflower chargrilled to a sweet finish was combined with Dijon mustard and a generous helping of cheese.
The restaurant kindly brought out a platter showcasing the best of their starters – house charcuterie, oysters and duck and chicken liver parfait.
I won the main course choosing contest hands down, with barbecue bavette, with chimichurri (£15), and treated myself to triple cooked chips (£4). The sweetness of the steak was instantly apparent and result of cooking over olive wood, I was reliably informed.
My husband’s salt beef, while utterly delicious was a bit of disappointment because it was served as thin slivers in salad form.
Nice but not what he wanted from a main course. Championing the when it’s gone, it’s gone policy, there were only two sharing mains available for our late lunch. Whole roast mallard, with celeriac puree had gone down a storm and had sold out.
Two very different dishes remained: chicken, leek and tarragon pie, and Cornish plaice, seaweed butter and cockles.
The seasonal menu is full of comforting winter warmers, like confit Aylesbury duck, with puy lentils and spinach, or Yorkshire venison haunch, pumpkin and parsley root.
The desserts were the most surprising of all, not a familiar dish in sight, but we decided to share brown butter custard tart (£6).
Paloma was a guest of Bistro Union, 40 Abbeville Road, Clapham Park SW4 9NG.